Gemma Willis

Youth and Community Work / Publishing

GW Alumni

I attended St Mary’s between 1995-2002. After leaving St Mary’s, I initially studied at Nottingham University where I obtained a music degree, which led me to my first job as a private music teacher. I then began volunteering as a youth worker, which turned out to be something I had a passion for – this led me to a return to university at Oxford Brookes to complete a BA in Youth, Community Work and Applied Theology, whilst continuing to volunteer at the same time. Following this and several more years in a youth work role, I then went on to study an MA at King’s College London in Youth Ministry and Theology. After spending 15 years in that sector, I eventually moved into publishing work, where I created both print and digital resources to help churches in mission.

For me, the biggest challenges I’ve faced since leaving St Mary’s have been sourcing the funding needed to do additional qualifications, as well as balancing work with the time needed to learn as well.

Reflecting on my time at St Mary’s, my personal highlight was winning the Young Enterprise competition, as well as a trip to Moscow. I enjoyed all of my subjects, but my favourites were Music, Theology and English Language.

If I was to give any advice to my younger self, it would be that your identity and self-worth isn’t found in your grades; to those still at St Mary’s, I would say that whilst hard work and dedication does matter, your qualifications aren’t the be-all and end all, nor do they define you. Your life is shaped by your experience and work over the years to come, not necessarily the grades that you receive